The Sticks and Stones of Backstabbing, Betrayal, Slander

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The saying, “Sticks and stones my break my bones but words will never hurt me,” is a children’s rhyme that was created to be used as a defense against verbal bullying by remaining calm and indifferent. However, “words will never hurt me,” is not what we find in Scripture. Our words can hurt and deeply wound. Job 15:5 says, “For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty. Psalm 15:2-3 also says, “The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others.” And Psalm 34:13 also says, “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies,” and Psalm 39:1 instructs, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin.”  Each of these verses address the sin of the mouth – which is ultimately, the sin of the heart. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of,” Luke 6:45.

So, let’s look at the sticks and stones of backstabbing, betrayal and slander that we find in God’s Word.

Backstabbing is a betrayal, often verbal, by one posing as a friend or as someone who cares. The word is self-explanatory, creating an image of a person who is pleasant to your face but, when your back is turned, stabs you.


Backstabbing is cowardly. It lacks the courage of honest confrontation and resorts to slander or passive-aggressive revenge without revealing its motives.

Psalm 55 is David’s cry of anguish due to a backstabbing friend. He had enemies enough, but this betrayal hurt the most because it was done by someone he had been close to: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship” (Psalm 55:12–13). Many scholars believe David is referring to Ahithophel, David’s counselor who turned traitor and joined Absalom’s revolt (2 Samuel 15:3116:2317:23). Whomever David means, the man betrayed him, lied about him, and deserted him when David needed him.


Backstabbers do not walk in love as God commands us to walk (Ephesians 5:22 John 1:6). They look out only for themselves (Philippians 2:4).

Backstabbing is hypocrisy in action because the backstabber pretends loyalty to a person while secretly destroying their reputation.

Backstabbing goes hand-in-hand with slander, gossip, and discord—all of which are condemned in Scripture (Colossians 3:81 Peter 2:1Romans 1:29Proverbs 17:42 Corinthians 12:20).


The Bible condemns backstabbing and all it entails. Proverbs 10:18 says, “Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.”


Backstabbers are fools because they are rejecting honesty, love, reconciliation, and kindness.

They are defying Jesus’ Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12).

Those with a tendency to backstab others need to closely evaluate their motives and attitudes in light of Scripture’s commands. We cannot earn the trust of other people or fully speak into their lives when we are known for backstabbing.


The old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not true. Words can do a great deal of damage to those who have been slandered.


Slander is making a false verbal statement that damages someone’s reputation.


The Bible says a lot about slander, in both Old Testament and New (Proverbs 10:181 Peter 2:1).  Slander is so high on God’s list of wrongs that He included it in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:16). The ninth commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Bearing false witness includes slander because of the untruths being spread.


Slander is simply lying about someone with the intent of causing others to view that person in a negative light.

Slander is malicious lying, and God hates lying (Proverbs 6:16–1912:22). Since God is the author of truth (John 14:61 John 5:6), anything untrue is in opposition to His nature and therefore repulsive to Him.

Both slander and gossip are wrong, and Scripture often condemns them together (Leviticus 19:16Proverbs 16:272 Corinthians 12:20), but slander takes gossip to a whole new level.

Gossip collects someone’s secrets and passes them to others; slander makes up its own secrets and broadcasts them wherever they will do the most harm.


The New Testament references slander as part of our old sinful nature.

Slander has no place in our lives when we become new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Colossians 3:7–8 says, “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”


Our words are to be dedicated to the glory of God, just as our bodies are (Romans 12:1–2Ephesians 4:29).


Those who know God have a responsibility to refrain from slander: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9–10).


Slander is one practice that must be put to death if we intend to follow Jesus (see Romans 6:11–14).


In Romans 1:28–32, Paul lists many traits of a depraved mind, and slander is included in this list (verse 30). When we slander others, we are choosing to step out of the path God designed for us. He will not participate with us in our attempts to destroy someone else with our words.


Slander comes from the heart, and when we are tempted to speak untruths about someone, we should first examine our own hearts to see what ugly root is producing those desires. Jesus said, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:18–19).


God wants us to see that slandering someone is an indicator that our hearts are not right with Him.


A desire to slander can spring from a root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15), from unresolved hurt (1 Peter 3:14–16), from unforgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:10–11Ephesians 4:32), from jealousy (Galatians 5:202 Corinthians 12:20), or from other sins of the heart.


God’s solution for slander is to love each other (John 13:34).

We don’t slander people whom we love (1 Corinthians 13:4–7). Love wants the best for others, and that means guarding their reputations as we do our own (Matthew 7:12). “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). When we focus on obeying the Lord by loving as He loves us, slander will not tempt us.




*Today’s blog is directly from the theologians of

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lisa rippy

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